Luton town centre flats to house MK homeless

An entire block of 110 apartments in Luton has been snapped by another council in a bid to ease its homelessness crisis.

Friday, 14th October 2016, 3:34 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th October 2016, 8:38 pm

Ironically, the five-storey Unity House on Stuart Street was once offices owned by Luton Borough Council, who sold it off to a private developer.

Now converted into sparkling new flats, it has been taken over, lock, stock and barrel by Milton Keynes Council.

It is understood Luton Borough was also interested in doing a homelessness deal on Unity House, which it sold off four years ago.

“Luton also has a big problem with housing the homeless and the council was interested in using these 110 flats,” said an MK council source.

“But they were not quick enough. We pipped them to the post and signed the deal with the developer.”

MK will pay a daily rate to the developer for the guaranteed use of each apartment as temporary homes for the homeless.

The unusual move comes as MK struggles with a 96 per cent increase over the past year in the number of families in costly temporary accommodation.

Many of these families are in B&Bs and hotels as far afield as Birmingham and Wisbech.

And the gross cost to the council is a whopping £7.8m a year, though much of this cash is recovered in housing benefit payments received by the homeless people.

The Luton flats will work out at approximately half the price of B&Bs, said councillor Nigel Long this week.

“It will make a huge difference. I admit it’s not perfect that these flats are in Luton, but it’s certainly better than sending MK families to Wisbech,” he told the H&P.

“It’s an initiative that makes sense and it is also value for money,” he added.

Unity House, situated close to Luton town centre, boasts 29 studio flats, which will cost the council £30 a night.

There are 32 one bedroom units at £36 a night and 49 two bedroom flats that will be rented out £44 a night.

Some have been previously advertised for sale as “high specification apartments” complete with en suite bathrooms, lift access and private parking.

The value of the open market is believed to up to £200,000 each.

Milton Keynes council will fund taxis to children to schools in MK from the flats .

The cost of policing the apartment block and repairing any damage done by the tenants is not yet known.

A spokesman for Luton Borough Council said: “This situation is symptomatic of the housing crisis being experienced by many councils across the country including Milton Keynes, Luton and across London.

“Councils have to take action in order to meet their statutory responsibilities to homeless families and at best value to tax payers.

“Clearly we are seeing pressure points across the South-East and a national solution is required.

“What must also happen is that councils continue to work together and keep each other informed.”